KATONGO LUMPA, Lusaka
ZAMBIA is one of the countries in southern Africa where the rate of gender-based violence calls for immediate attention.
Statistics narrate that almost half of women aged between 15 and 49 in the country have experienced physical violence. And half of the reported sexual assault cases are committed against girls under the age of 16.
This yearâ€™s Zambia Police survey unveiled a 7.7 percent increase of GBV in the first quarter of this year as compared to last year.
About 4, 998 cases of GBV were reported across the country just in the first quarter of 2016, compared to 4, 615 cases reported in the first quarter of 2015, conveying a 383 case increase.
Though in the third quarter of this year, there was a 14.5 percent reduction (compared to 2015), the 4235 cases reported to the law enforcers, indicate a high GBV prevalence.
The reported cases may be a tip of the iceberg because of the many unreported GBV and sexual assault cases where perpetrators happen to be close kin.
Despite the numerous efforts by Government to fight the vice, the GBV prevalence in Zambia remains high. However, this has not discouraged Government in fighting the vice.
In 2014, Government in partnership with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID), launched the first one-stop GBV survivor support centre at Ngâ€™ombe Clinic in Lusaka.
Today, the country has 16 GBV one-stop centres in Chibombo, Chongwe, Choma, Chingola, Kafue, Kalomo, Kapiri Mposhi, Katete, Luanshya, Lusaka, Mongu, Monze, Mpika, Mumbwa, Nyimba and Nakonde.
These centres provide victims of GBV with immediate medical aid, paralegal services, psychosocial counselling, and legal investigation services.
On November 23, 2016, another public/private partnership was signed to support GBV survivors.
World Vision Zambia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Hotel Intercontinental, Mika Hotels, Radisson Blu, Taj Pamodzi Hotel and Twangale Park Investment with the support of Government, USAID and DFID.
During the signing ceremony, World Vision donated K168, 788 worth of forensic test kits and the hotels donated medical equipment and supplies worth K50, 000 to the Zambia Police Service to support survivors of GBV through the Victim Support Unit and the police hospital.
The donation followed the establishment of a DNA laboratory by Government and the training of 105 police officers in forensic collection and investigation.
World Vision Zambia national director Mark Kelly said the signing of the MoU will mark significant changes in the lives of GBV survivors.
Mr Kelly said the partnership launch will enhance service delivery and improve the prosecution of GBV cases.
â€œThis launch is timely as it will enhance effective service delivery through provision of additional care and support to GBV survivors living in shelters, as well as improve GBV case persecution through the availability of the newly-opened forensic laboratory,â€ he said.
During the same event, USAID mission director Michael Yates applauded the collaborative efforts of the organisations in addressing GBV in the country.
â€œAs USAID, we know partnerships are key to solving such complex problems, and here partnering with the Zambian government, civil society, other donors, and the private sector will be essential for sustainability and impact,â€ Dr Yates said.
He said since the initiation of one-stop centres in October 2014, over 50, 000 survivors of GBV have had access to post-GBV care at the support centres.
Dr Yates said from October 2015 to September 2016, more than 18, 000 survivors, 31 percent of which are children, received post-GBV care at one-stop centres.
Meanwhile, speaking on behalf of the DFID, British Deputy High Commissioner to Zambia Andrew Hamilton said UK Aid is dedicated to fighting GBV in Zambia.
Mr Hamilton said the organisation is taking a multi-prolonged approach to ending violence and supporting survivors of GBV.
â€œUK government is committed to empowering women and promoting gender equality across the world; recognising violence against women as a global problem, seeking partnerships with the international community, civil society, and very importunately other governments, like the government of Zambia, to ensure ending violence is a priority,â€ he said.
Minister of Gender Victoria Kalima in a speech read for her by the ministryâ€™s permanent secretary, Edwidge Mutale, recognised the supplementing efforts of the co-operating partners in making sure that forensic laboratories are strengthened with testing kits.
â€œIt is gratifying to be part of this event today where we see Government and the private sector coming together to support a social cause,â€ Ms Kalima said.
And Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja, said the forensic kits will help enhance the policeâ€™s capacity towards investigating GBV cases.
Mr Kanganja said the police will not be relaxed on GBV cases and assured the donors that the kits will be used for their purpose and will be taken care of.
â€œOther organisations should emulate what World Vision has done today. The police service is ready to partner with other stakeholders to fight gender-based violence. And we will not be relaxed on this cause,â€ he said.
Mr Kanganja urged police to investigate GBV cases within the confines of the law.
He said the signing of the MoU by different private sector actors is a positive sign of their efforts in assisting Government to stop GBV.
KATONGO LUMPA, Lusaka